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COLUMN

Happytown

The one where Republicans try to pin the tail on Charlie Crist's donkey, the city bluntly reaffirms that it is indeed an cruel (fat!) mistress and the county is a joke that isn't funny anymore.

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Now that soccer mom/politician hybrid Teresa Jacobs has been at the helm of Orange County for six months, there's plenty of good news to be told - at least according to Teresa Jacobs.The mayor held a "State of the County" address on June 3, much in the vein of the county's "State of the Schools" address we reported on three weeks ago, as it claimed the same ballroom of the Doubletree hotel with the same political players in attendance and the same sympathy laughs for G-rated jokes.

Through thick plumes of sappiness and self-congratulation, one could still discern a few items of note: tourism is allegedly booming again, with Central Florida bringing in more visitors last year - more than 50 million - than any other region in the country, ever. In the first five months of this year, she added, tourist development tax collections are up 16 percent. "Thank you Mickey, Shamu and, of course, our newest kid on the block, Harry Potter," Jacobs said, to at least one groan in the audience.

Predictably, Jacobs praised firefighters, county police, correctional officers and practically every human being in Orange County, which was all met with applause. But when Jacobs gave props to her Republican cohortsin Tallahassee - namely House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner - the crowd was silent and fidgety, and Jacobs stuttered for the first time in reading her 11-page address.

After the speech, reporters clustered around Jacobs to ask about the newly brokered DPAC deal ("I think [Dyer's] got a very strong management team on board," she fudged), foreclosures ("I think we're reaching the bottom," she guessed) and the viability of SunRail ("I don't waste my time on dead projects," she assured), until finally Happytown threw an environmental Hail Mary and asked what she would do about an impending shortage of drinking water in the Floridan aquifer. "Some of the things we're looking at is where we build plants to make more use out of surface water without affecting the environment," the mayor said, and we instantly regretted not asking her about the county's spiffy new "emergency" iPhone app before slow-news-day shuffling off into the weekend. Yawn.

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